Generation 2 · Generation 3

Generation 3 Heir Vote

Welcome to the Generation 3 Heir Vote for Chasing Rainbows!

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Overview

The Berry Mainlands are fueding. Zinfandel Plains and Bubbleport are taking a stand for Berry rights while the rest of the nation stands strong in their old values, traditions and beliefs. The Resistance is still strong, raising an army to take back the pinnacle of entertainment and luxury that they lost. However, in order to get to Bubbleport, they have to go through Zinfandel Plains.

Please remember that hair, make up and clothing are all subject to change.

Apollo Spring

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Apollo is charming. The oldest of six, he quickly came into a leadership role inside the Spring household. His younger siblings looked up to him and he always vied to set a good example for them. When Apollo starts school he finds himself being a role model for many of his peers; they rely on him for advice in a society that calls mixed berries equals but then treats them like second class citizens. As Apollo gets older some Berries speculate that he is losing his mind. Apollo doesn’t see it that way. He knows the quiet little town of Zinfandel Plains isn’t as safe as everyone would like to believe and is preparing for what he believes is the inevitable. When war rushes their doorsteps, Apollo might be the only person prepared for the tragedies that follow.

Solem Spring

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Solem is part of the first set of twins, along with Luxanna. Despite being born first, he is shy and reserved; a thinker in a house full of doers. Like Apollo, he feels like the time they have left in Zinfandel Plains is limited. However, he doesn’t prepare for the coming war like it is the apocalypse. Instead he cleans out the attic and begins to build himself a space for inventing. With a drawing board for his blueprints and an inventing table for tinkering, Solem begins his quest to perfect guns and armor that he hopes will help deter an attack. Can he successfully arm a whole town by himself or will the fire power of the Resistance prove to be too much?

Luxanna Spring

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Estellise always joked that Luxanna stole all of Solem’s charisma and ferocity in the womb. Lux is stubborn where Solem is flexible; dominant where Solem is submissive.  Perhaps the reason Luxanna was given an extra dose of strength and resilience is because the All Mighty Berry knew she would need it. Luxanna has been homeless most of her life. She can’t remember much about her home or her family – just her younger brother Helios and that they lived in Zinfandel Plains. She manages to scrounge by in Starburst Shores with the help of friends and a few five finger discounts. One night she saves a young boy from trouble and he insists she come to his home for a reward. At first she is reluctant to agree but eventually she caves and arrives at a mansion, of all places. Will the wealthy family that resides inside it be her salvation or her downfall?

Helios Spring

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Helios inherited more than his father’s good looks. He also inherited his father’s reckless nature and thrill seeking attitude. Whenever his parents said he couldn’t do something he just had to do it. The more they emphasized the dangers, the more likely he was to engage in it. Helios had broken just about every bone in his body by the times he was seven. When he finds himself and Luxanna in a perilous predicament it is out of instinct that he willingly sacrifices himself so she can have a chance at escape. Sold to a wealthy family in Starburst Shores for a pretty penny, Helios has a lot on his plate. Can he successfully navigate high society and falling in love while searching for his family and, more importantly to him, Luxanna?

Lightning Spring

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Lightning’s mouth lives up to her name. She’s sharp tongued and witty. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, she has a hard time making friends. She just doesn’t understand why girls like to spend hours on clothes and make-up – girls like her twin sister, Nova. She enjoys running more than gossiping and sweat more than perfume. One night, while on her usual run, she sees something she wasn’t supposed to and her whole life is changed. Will she be able to handle life in the fast lane or will end up in the dust?

Nova Spring

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Nova’s whole life is drowned in hair and clothes. Ever since she was a toddler she was called cute. Adorable. She yearns for attention and isn’t afraid to flaunt her beauty to the world. What she is afraid of is failure and rejection. As a mixed berry, she receives tons of both from the pure berries who hold no ill will towards her kind but do not see them as equals. When a pure-bred berry transfers into her school, the hallways erupt into rumors and chaos. All Nova knows is that she is drawn to him – to his status – like a moth to a flame. But there is more to this boy than Nova could possibly know.

Vote by commenting below! 😀

Apollo: 7
Solem: 4
Luxanna: 17
Helios: 15
Lightning: 5
Nova: 5

Generation 2

Chapter Twenty One: The Martyr

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A week passed and Ocean’s opportunity had yet to arrive. She was becoming restless, her lithe body often tense. Our cell was visited by various guards, in groups, and every time someone was taken her patience grew thinner. There was nothing Ocean could do – nothing any of us could do. We were each taken in turn: always alone, always without warning. Flax had been seized the same night as Sunburst; returned with broken fingers and bruises lining his side hours later. Affair was taken the next day after a breakfast of bland broth and bread and was gone for almost a full twenty-four hours. The teenager suffered from a black eye and lacerations on his extremities. Ocean’s turn had been last night. She came back with a broken nose and a nasty wound across her cheek after close to twenty minutes. She reassured us that the man that interrogated her looked worse.

Sunburst had never been brought back to us. A full week of mystery surrounded his whereabouts. Each day that passed ate away at the hope we held for our friend. I could not allow myself to dwell on death, it would consume me. Instead, I preoccupied myself with thoughts of father. I tried to keep him warm and comfortable. Whenever we were given food – which wasn’t often – I would give more than half my share of broth to him. It was difficult. He was unconscious more than not. On the rare occasion he was awake, he would mumble on and on about an island. A place where we could be free, he said. It didn’t make sense to me – probably nothing more than a fever dream – but I would nod and agree with him, praying to whatever great being there might be in the sky that he would make it.

According to Flax, we had been in the cell for eight days when strange noises began to erupt around the facility. At first we thought there was just an unusual amount of activity in the prison. Affair suggested that more Uprising members might have been caught. Whatever the cause was, boots were constantly scuffing against the floor above us. Occasionally groups of guards would rush by our cell. I noticed some of them were injured.

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Then night fell and gun shots began to resonate through the concrete building. We weren’t sure where the noises were originating from; it was hard to tell if the explosions were muffled from distance or cement. Within an hour it became clear to everyone – the Resistance’s base was under attack.

“Ocean, sit down.” Flax coaxed. Ever since we realized what was happening, Ocean’s pacing had been incessant. Every group of guards caused her to reel, and every wounded soldier they brought back caused her blue lips to pull into a smile.

“No.” There was no malice in her voice, just determination. Being in motion calmed Ocean’s nerves; focused her mind. The sounds of war settled around us, soaking into skin and reverberating through bone. Finally, Affair vocalized the question we all were afraid of.

“It’s the Uprising, Right? They’re coming to save us?”

I swallowed the lump in my throat, fingertips playing in my father’s hair, and forced a smile, “Of course. Who else could it be?” What a stupid statement. Of course it could have been a number of organizations: the government, wanting to extract its own revenge against us, for one. For the noise and chaos erupting outside seemed to be too frenzied for it to really be the Uprising. Only Pandora and possibly Noir remained outside these walls – if they even were outside these walls. I flinched at the thought. They had to be outside. They were strong and crafty individuals; not easily caught. And Noir, Noir had to have found my mother. Surely he was taking care of her somewhere far away from here.

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Flax nodded in agreement with me, patting the teenager on his shoulder, “We’re going to be-“ A gunshot rang out, this one close by, and Flax’s sentence died on his lips. For the first time screams erupted, the cries mingling together until they were an incoherent chorus of horror. Affair jumped to his feet and pushed his face against the metal bars.

Squinting through the darkness, he shook his head, “I can’t see anything.” His voice climbed over the chaos, the only comprehensible voice amongst the shrieks.

More gunshots; this time in quick secession. The cries died off slowly, one by one, until an eerie silence claimed the damp air. Collectively we held our breaths as the sound of heavy boots approached us.

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It was a guard, his movement sluggish despite having no apparent injuries. The sick smile on his lips spiked terror down my spine. His raised his head to look at us, a thick layer of blood dripping down his chin. Flax moved quickly, grabbing Affair’s wrist and yanking him towards the back of the cell. The guard’s right hand rose, wrapping around the bars. Eyes glinting dangerous in the dim light, his gaze slid from ‘Bow to ‘Bow until they rested upon me. Instinctively, I moved to protect my father from his sight even as the hair on my neck and arms rose. The unease lingering between us was only reinforced as heavy metal clanked open and closed. Stepping inside, the pistol in the guard’s clenched palm flashed precariously.

“Get on your knees!” Teeth gnashed together, saliva flying through the air.

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I took a series of deep breaths. I wanted to stay calm, willed myself to move smoothly, but my hands still trembled as I raised them into the air. Four bodies slowly clambered onto their knees as the guard flashed the weapon at each of us in turn. I kept myself in front of my father, praying that the guard would ignore his unconscious form, to no avail.

“What’s wrong with him!” He shouted, more saliva racing out of his mouth.

Fear paralyzed my lungs, made it hard to breath. My father couldn’t die here – not like this. He had already come so far. I tried to speak but only air puffed out between my teeth.

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“He’s unconscious, sir. He’s been in and out of consciousness for days.” Flax stated. His green eyes, usually riddled with worry, had hardened. I silently thanked him for coming to my aid. Unfortunately, Flax’s statement only infuriated the wary guard. He rushed forward, whipping the barrel of the thirty-five millimeter to Flax’s forehead.

“Shut up! Shut the fudge up!”

Flax flinched at the contact before steadying himself.

“I’ll pull the trigger! I fudging do it!”

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Hot tears began to blur my vision, pooling over eyelids and down my checks. I could still make out the guard, his finger tightening on the trigger. The image of Flax dead, brains sprayed across the cement walls and Affair’s face, played in my mind. I screamed, the high-pitched screech ending in a small whimper as sobs took over my vocal cords. On cue, the guard lashed towards me. The barrel smashed into my temple, slicing open skin and sending me to the floor. Blood gushed down my face, the coppery fluid filling my mouth, and another scream tore from my throat – hoarse and primal – as an explosion punctuated the air. The whole cell seemed to shift, shaking, struggling not to cave in on itself. The light overhead flickered, propelling us into darkness and back again.

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Through the strobe-like lighting, Ocean lunged through the air. Between the quake of the explosion and the weight of Ocean’s lithe frame, the guard collapsed to the ground, losing his grip on the pistol. The weapon skidded across concrete, out of sight. Ocean’s patience had finally paid off as her long graceful fingers wrapped around soft tissue and squeezed. The pressure on his trachea caused him to sputter, gasping for oxygen that would never come. As the last tremors shook the cage, our assailant’s chest stopped rising.

When Ocean was satisfied, she stood, throwing her hair out of her face. Her face was flush, lips parted as she caught her breath, “He’s dead.” Her voice was monotone, eyes still trained on the indents left around his throat.

“You only did what you had to. What I should have done.” Flax said, making his way over to her. He patted down the soldier’s sides until a soft chime sounded. Reaching inside a pocket, Flax took out a ring of keys and held them in the air, “Let’s get out of here.”

Ocean stopped to pick up the forgotten gun. She pressed a button and the magazine slid out into her palm, “There’s five shots left including the one in the chamber.” Five bullets. Five of us. A chill ran down my spine. We had been seconds from death, only saved by an unexpected detonation and Ocean’s quick reaction.

Helping me to my feet, Flax handed me the keys before scooping up my father. Being completely dead weight, my father was he gently maneuvered onto his shoulder. I wiped the blood from my eye, wincing as I grazed the cut on my temple, before shoving key after key into the cell door. Eventually one fit, clicking as I turned it.

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With no real sense of direction, we made our way down the dungeon corridor with hitched breath. Ocean’s right hand ran along the cold walls as she led the way, whispering out numbers as we passed doors and passageways. We hadn’t gone far when the ground became sticky, damp stones shining red. Up ahead I could make out a cell, like the one we had been prisoners in. My stomach twisted, recalling the screams and gunshots we had heard just minutes before the crazed guard had appeared. Ocean saw inside first. Sorrow riddled her features before they were hardened by anger. She allowed her pace to falter, just for a moment, before she continued on, “Door number five.”

I clenched my eyes shut as I finally approached the massacre. I didn’t have to see it to know that was what it had been – an execution. Had the guard been ordered to commit these murders or were they of his own volition? The smile he wore as he approached, the glint in his eyes, told me that it was the former. I felt sick.

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Eventually, Ocean took a sharp left. She seemed to so confident, so certain, that none of us questioned her judgment. After all, her guess was as good as ours. Still counting out doors and passageways, Ocean slowed when the soft murmur of voices broke through the hushed padding of our bare feet against concrete. Ocean held a hand up, slinking down the hall towards a door that had light pouring out from under its frame. Affair rushed to her side while Flax and I slowly approached. Ocean stood, legs slightly apart, with both hands firmly on the pistol. She aimed it squarely at the door and nodded once. Affair, with a flick of his wrist, opened the door before slamming his body against the safety of the stone wall.

Three shots exploded through the night air. My body jumped to match each sound, hands flying over my ears and eyes clenched shut. When I opened them I could make out a man and a woman huddled together on the ground. The man had been shot in the left side of his chest and the woman in the shoulder. The third shot had missed, lodging itself into the wood of the desk behind them. They nursed their wounds, curse words and sobs filling the air.

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“Don’t move or I’ll shoot you again.” Ocean yelled. She stepped further into the room, waving the gun from one target to the next. Affair followed her inside. A frown marred my lips – was shooting them on sight necessary? They could have easily have been escaped prisoners or perhaps individuals trying to rescue us. I kept my thoughts to myself, slowly making my way into the door frame.

“What’s going on up there?” Flax pointed to the ceiling to emphasize his question.

The two distressed ‘Bows turned to look to look at Flax and me – who was repositioning my father on his shoulder behind me. They looked at each other once before the man finally answered, “It’s free-love supporters like you. Mutt sympathizers.” Despite the disdain and hatred that tinted his answer, relief washed over us. Ocean’s tense shoulders slumped, relaxing now that we were sure we wouldn’t escape from one terror only to emerge into another.

“Where’s Sunburst!” Ocean half shouted, half growled.

“I don’t know who that is.” The man whispered, flinching as Ocean whipped the gun in his direction.

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“He was a prisoner! Like us! Where did you take him!”

“I. Don’t. Know. Where. They. Took. Him.” This time his voice was strained as he matched the hatred in Ocean’s eyes.

“Did you know of a prisoner named Pandora Spring or Noir Pinot?” I crossed the space between the door frame and the Resistance members as I spoke. I couldn’t just stand around and watch these two bleed to death. They might not have cared for us, our life or our loved ones but we couldn’t stoop to their level. We had to be better than them, “Put pressure on your wound. It will help with the coagulation.”

“You were numbers to us. We didn’t take names.” The woman spoke for the first time, her voice a strange mixture of fear and confusion.

“How do we get out of here?” Ocean asked. Her eyebrows furrowed as she aimed the pistol from one guard to the next.

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“It’s hard to explain.” The man began, wincing as Affair applied pressure over his injury.

“Well you better start trying.” Ocean hissed.

“Ocean!” Her named flew out of my mouth, annoyance riddling my tone. Threatening these guards wasn’t right. No matter how much hatred she held for them, I wouldn’t let her harm or kill them without reason.

“I can show you! If you let me, I can show you.” The woman interrupted. We all looked at her, suspicion clouding our judgment. I might not want harm to come to her but that did not mean that she would treat us with the same respect. For all I knew, this woman could guide us right into the underbelly of their organization. She could also lead us to salvation. It was a risky situation.

“How do we know we can trust you?” Affair asked, breaking the silence.

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“You don’t, but what other choice do you really have? You can shoot us dead now and wander around, hoping not to be found by other members of the Resistance or you can let me help you.” Her voice grew stronger as she spoke – the whimpering turning into an almost tranquil state of mind. I knew she was right; she was the best chance we had of getting out of here alive. It was amazing, really, that we had even made it this far without being seen.

I took a deep breath and nodded, “Okay, we’ll let you lead the way.”

Ocean looked at me, eyes wide, “What! No. The moment she hears someone coming she’ll scream for help. She’ll give away our position.”

Another deep breath to calm myself. I kneeled down in front of both of them, staring deep into her blue eyes, “If you make so much as a sound that we don’t agree with, Ocean will shoot you. It won’t be in your shoulder, either. I don’t want to hurt you so please, if you could just cooperate with us.” She nodded in understanding. The man beside her, however, did not agree with her sentiment.

“I’d rather die here, loyal, than a traitor like Casal.” He spat, “You know they’ll kill you when they find out, Mist. If they didn’t spare the chief’s son they’d never have pity you.” I had heard the name Casal once before, back at Jasper’s house. My eyebrows furrowed.

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“I can arrange that.” Ocean stated. Affair pushed the gun’s barrel down, effectively ending her threat.

“We can tie him up. Someone will find him eventually.” Affair compromised, glancing at Flax and me for approval. A small nod of my head was all it took for the young man to snatch up a pair of handcuffs that were strewn across the desk. No complaints left our hostage’s mouth at the plan and Affair maneuvered him into a chair with ease. Ocean held Mist at gunpoint while Affair finished tying a few knots in some rope, hand cuffing the guard’s hands behind his back.

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“When we get out of here we’ll tell someone that you’re in here.” Affair was trying to be reassuring but even as he spoke, the man rolled his eyes.

He kept his head held high as Affair worked at the restraints, “You are making a mistake, Mist.”

“Shut up.” Exasperation was evident as Ocean spoke.  “Also, if you scream for help while we’re still within earshot I’ll backtrack in order to put a bullet in your head.”

Despite all of his bravado, the guard didn’t speak again. Even as we snuck down the dimly lit hallway with Mist at the lead, his voice was silent. Ocean’s threat had rung true, and though I didn’t agree with her methods, I couldn’t really argue with the results. Mist led us down a maze of passageways and corridors, climbing flights of stairs. She only stopped when she heard voices, allowing us a moment of reprieve, before signaling for us to move when the coast was clear. She did all of this with Ocean’s gun aimed at the back of her head.

Throwing her back up against a wall, Mist caught her breath and gazed back at us with heavy lidded eyes. I followed her lead, relishing how the cool stones felt against my flushed flesh. Our pace had been rigorous, especially since the lot of us had been confined to a ten foot cage for over a week. Soft whispers drifted across the still air and Mist raised a finger to her lips, making herself as small as possible against the wall. Ocean’s aim drifted over Mist’s body for the firs time, ready to fire at whoever strolled around the corner.

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Out of all the people that could have rounded that corner, Cephei hadn’t even crossed my mind. Her long yellow hair had been pulled into a bun and her usual casual clothing had been replaced with cameo print pants. A shot rang out and Cephei’s calm steps fumbled, causing her to almost crash into the floor out of surprise as a bullet rooted itself right above her head. In the blink of an eye Cephei regained her posture, aiming her pistol straight at Ocean’s head. Her gaze roamed over to me before snapping back to Ocean and it dawned on me that Ocean had not lowered her weapon. Cephei hadn’t retaliated: she was a smart woman and realized that we were half naked and bruised, prisoners, but Ocean did not know who Cephei was. To Ocean, Cephei was just another faceless guard, an enemy. Not a member of Bubbleport’s Uprising, an ally.

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I threw myself into the space between them, “Ocean, don’t shoot. She’s one of us.” Shock registered in Ocean’s eyes before, slowly, she lowered her weapon.

“Estellise, you’re okay.” Cephei whispered, shoving her glock into the waist of her pants.

“Yes, I’m fine. What are you doing here? Is Noir okay? My sister?” A million questions danced on the tip of my tongue but I stopped myself from spewing them.

“We’re still securing the building,” Cephei gestured down the hall she had just came from, “I’ll explain as we move – we aren’t safe yet.”

Mist began fiddling with her hands, eyes down casted. I could read it on her face, in the shaking of her knees. She was scared, unsure what we would decide to do with her now that her presence was no longer necessary. I shot her a reassuring smile, tugging softly on her wrist as I passed. She followed after me silently, Ocean keeping an eye on her every movement.

“Eden called me a few days ago, told me that the Resistance had left Bubbleport defenseless. We took steps to quickly secure the city but our break really came when Matisse gave his verdict to support the Uprising just three days ago.” I could hardly believe my ears. It had worked? Noir and I had actually been able to convince Matisse – the CEO of Matisse Inc – to abandon his neutral stance for a pro-mixture one?

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“After we fortified the city, the broadcast happened.”

“The broadcast?” Affair echoed, sounding as confused as I felt.

“Yes, the Resistance is made up of a council – many of the Berry Mainland’s politicians are part of it. They were broadcasting one of their meetings on Apple Pie News. Several individuals spoke and Eden was one of them.”

Flax voiced his question next, “Wait, why was Eden allowed to speak at such an event?”

Because he’s a lying, back stabbing, traitorous monster; I kept those sentiments to myself.

“We’re not sure yet. It’s really hard to explain what happened. About halfway through his speech he took off his jacket and underneath he was wearing a black hoodie – like the ones we wear during protests – and started to talk about how wrong they were. How misguided and uninformed their cause was. The audio cut out but whoever was controlling the camera didn’t censor the picture before he was shot on live television.”

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“They killed him?” My long strides became tangled, toes stubbing against uneven concrete.

“They created a martyr in the process. The people are demanding justice. They couldn’t just sweep his death under the rug like they have with so many others. Zinfandel Plains is up in arms about it – Eden was from there, well known and well liked.”

The fight was over as ‘Bows dressed similarly to Cephei patrolled the area, some with hostages and some without. I couldn’t focus on anything as we emerged into the sunlight. The only thought that stuck in my head was that Eden was dead. I couldn’t understand it. Why would he do that? He had been working for the Resistance since day one, or had he? I had never given him the opportunity to explain himself. I had been so angry, so consumed by his betrayal that I never thought to give him a second chance. Why should I have? How could I have known that it wouldn’t just be more lies meant to further ensnare me in his web?

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My name broke through the fog in my head. Noir was running towards me, relief flooding his aura. I allowed myself to be twirled in the air as his words floated around us. Feet planted firmly back onto the ground, I sobbed into his chest. The tears didn’t stop as he guided me to a medic, as they cleaned me up. So many had been lost: Jasper, Sunburst and Eden. More still had to be identified. Would anything ever we okay again? Would so many people, on both sides, be able to pull their lives back together after such tragedy?

I pictured my family: Pandora, who had been fighting nail and fist to get me back. My mother, scrambling around tending to the injured. My father, unconscious and sick but alive. And Noir, who was holding my hand and whispering words of encouragement despite my sullen expression and refusal to speak and I knew the answer to that question.

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It wouldn’t be easy but we would make it.

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A.N: So this generation isn’t completely over (I have some setting up to do for the next generation but I can’t do that until I know who wins).

So go vote for the generation 3 heir!

Generation 2

Chapter Twenty: Cell 53

A.N: Hey guys, I want to warn you that this chapter contains sexual content that some of you may be uncomfortable with. If you wish to read the PG-13 version that takes out that scene then please read this chapter on the forums HERE.

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At some point I was blind folded, hands tied behind my back. Whatever had been used to restrain me was knotted too tightly. Every bump or turn the van made caused the material to chaff against my already bruised wrists.

When we arrived at what I assumed was the Resistance’s headquarters I could tell it was midday. Sunlight managed to pierce the fabric of my blindfold, turning my sight red behind closed eyelids. I could hear the moans of others as we were jerked along, the thud as someone fell, the collision between boots and ribs as our assailants screamed for them to get up. My world was dosed back into black as steal doors rang shut behind us.

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When my mask and bonds were finally removed I was in a large cement room. No windows lined the four walls; the only light leaking into the room was fluorescent, radiating from the ceiling. I wiggled my toes, having lost my shoes somewhere along the journey, and quickly realized the floor was damp beneath my feet. I didn’t have time to search the room for familiar faces before an order was barked out.

“Strip!”

Every muscle in my body stiffened. I must have heard him wrong. A quick glance around me told me I hadn’t. I didn’t know any of the individuals next to me which simultaneously made the situation better and worse; better because I wouldn’t have to live through the embarrassment of stripping in front of someone I knew, worse because no one had seen my naked body since I was a child.

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One of the guards noticed my hesitance. My lack of obedience was met with the same abuse the others had been given when their movements were deemed too slow. My legs were kicked out from under me and I collapsed onto the moist concrete with a pathetic cry. I curled up, making myself as small as I could, hands protecting my head and face, as other joined in the assault. The punishment for my crime only ended once I was bruised and bleeding. I was heaved back onto my feet by two men. They ignored my sputtering, my swollen cheek, and my bleeding sides. Instead one tore at my blouse while the other worked at my pants. All I could do was choke back sobs as buttons popped open one by one. No one said anything as their hands snaked down my body. No one batted an eyelash as my bare flesh was groped at. Areas that even I hadn’t touched were invaded, desecrated by two men who derived pleasure from such activities. They left my side when they were done with their game, their laughter still echoing off the hollow cement. Naked and embarrassed, the group of us was hosed down.

We were allowed to put on our undergarments before we were separated, thrown into varying cells. I walked down the long hallway soaked and frozen, gazing at the units as I passed them. Most of them were packed full of bodies, not enough room for the Berry’s inside to move without grazing their neighbor. A lock clicked open and a cell door clanked as metal separated from metal. I was flung inside. I didn’t bother trying to hold myself up. I wanted nothing more than to quiver against the icy floor, wallowing in self-pity and disgust. Luckily there was enough space for me to do so without inconveniencing my cell mates. I made no attempt to see who they were but they did not share my apathy.

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“Estellise?” A male voice called. It was familiar and kind. I didn’t look up, however, until a long sleeve shirt was swathed around my shoulders. Sunburst was smiling down at me. Dried blood caked his lips and there were a few injuries scattered over his exposed torso. He also looked thin – much thinner than he had been a few months ago, “Hey now, we’ll be alright.” Sunburst said once he caught sight of my tear stained face. I nodded, trying to force a smile. My body wasn’t cooperating, the trembling increasing even with the thin fabric protecting me from the bitter air.

I slowly sat up, pawing at my eyes. I knew most of the Berry’s in my cell. Ocean was pacing along the back wall, looking for something. She was also dressed in her undergarments but she didn’t seem bothered by it. Instead, Ocean looked determined, strong. Much how I imaged Pandora would react to such a situation. So unlike me – scared, shivering, defiled and weak.

Flax was sitting in a corner with Affair, both of them wearing nothing more than boxers. Water dropped from their hair, showing me that they had received the same treatment I had less than fifteen minutes ago. This seemed to upset Affair, whose face slowly changed from surprise to horror as recognition set in. I pulled Sunburst’s shirt tighter around my body, attempting to hide from the scrutiny. I was afraid if they stared at my exposed flesh for too long the evidence of the sexual assault would become apparent.

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I stat with my back turned on them – looking out through metal bars, into the now empty hallway – and buttoned the long shirt. It fell past my bottom, successfully hiding my underwear from sight. I was grateful that Sunburst – for whatever reason – still had his clothing to give me. But why was he dressed when the rest of us were practically naked?

“Sunburst…” My voice was hoarse, “how come you are the only one who is fully clothed – um, was fully clothed?”

He held out his hand for me and I hesitated – thinking about Eden and what a mistake it had ever been to trust him. Sunburst was different though, right? He was just another victim like us; another soul that was led into the fire by a supposed friend and comrade. I took his hand.

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He led me to the corner Flax and Affair were huddled in and sat down across from them. When he spoke it was barely a whisper and Ocean quickly stopped her incessant pacing to listen in, “I’ve been here for a few weeks, picked up off of the street by a police officer. No trial. No bail. Just thrown in here. When I asked what law I had broken they refused to answer.”

I glanced at Flax and Affair, then to Ocean, and it seemed they all understood my unspoken question, “They raided the Sour Apple last night. Jasper was there too, checking up on all the injured he had hidden in the loft. He had a shotgun behind the bar. Shot at them. They shot back. We don’t know where they took him.” Ocean explained, wringing her hair as she began her pacing again.

“We think,” Flax began, “That they are throwing the inner-circle of our branch into this cell. It makes sense – we’re only missing Pandora, Noir and Eden now.”

I squirmed, feeling anger welling up within me at just the mention of his name. They didn’t know what a two-faced liar he had been – how Eden was the reason they were all in here; cold, wet and hungry. Eden was the very cause of their suffering and here they were – worrying about him. It made me sick to know that I had been none the wiser just the previous day. I thought about informing them of Eden’s betrayal but by the time I had sorted through my feelings the conversation had switched course. Four sets of eyes gazed at me expectantly and I realized I had missed and important bit of information while preoccupied with my own thoughts.

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening.” I mumbled, suddenly embarrassed by my lack of attention. Our lives were in danger; I should be grasping at every word they said, trying to figure out an escape route. Not seething in anger over a man I should forget about.

“We were saying the only person who doesn’t fit into the equation is the man over there.” Sunburst used his thumb to point at an older man, curled up in the corner. His skin was only a shade darker than white and I could tell his breathing was shallow from across the room. My eyebrows furrowed. I hadn’t noticed him before, since he was encased in black and didn’t seem familiar, but now that he had my attention I couldn’t seem to look away.

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He was too pale to be my father; too skinny. I kept repeating those words in my head, hoping that if I convinced myself before I reached his side that it would be true. It wasn’t. I couldn’t change reality by simply wishing it away. My legs buckled. I collected myself around my father’s body but he didn’t stir. He was alive but sick, losing his color rapidly. Fading right in front of my eyes.

“You know him.” It was a statement more than a question. A statement filled with sorrow. Flax clearly emphasized with my situation.

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“What happened to him?” I whispered, brushing my father’s hair out of his face. It was still the color of the sun – the same as my hair naturally. The tiniest spark of hope ignited in my belly. He hadn’t begun to fade completely, he could still make it.

“We don’t know,” Sunburst whispered, “He was already here when I was captured. Already fading. He’s been in and out of consciousness. When he is awake he usually…”

“What? He usually what!” I asked, voice rising.

“He doesn’t make much sense. They take him away sometimes and when they bring him back he’s always worse, Estellise.”

“They take him away?” I repeated, perplexed.

Sunburst nodded, fiddling with his fingers and scrunching up his face, “They’ve brought me to a room once, too. Threatened me, soaked me with a hose like they did to you all. They asked me questions about the other branches of the Uprising. They wanted to know how many there were and such.”

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“Did you tell them?” Ocean asked. Her voice betrayed her for the first time since I had arrived, quivering in fear.

“No,” Sunburst shook his head, “I didn’t. They tried to beat it out of me. Eventually they gave up and brought me back to this cell. We’ve barely received food since.” Suddenly the bruises and half-healed lashes on Sunburst’s side seemed far more sinister. I wanted to check my father for similar injuries but he was out cold. Nothing I did roused him. Instead I nursed his head into my lap, trying to make him as comfortable as possible. There wasn’t much else I could do. My medical training had been basic so I could not diagnose, or even guess, what was ailing him. Even if I could, I had no supplies to come to his aid. Just my bare hands and what little scraps of clothing the six of us were wearing.

No one approached me for the rest of the night. They let me sit there, running my hands through my father’s hair, in silence. I was grateful for it. From what I overheard most of their conversations were clouded by speculation and seemed to move in circles. Nothing was ever concluded and no plausible escape found.

There was no way to tell time in the cell, except maybe to keep track of the guard cycles. Flax seemed to be doing that. The Berry situated outside of cell had changed twice since we had been there before I finally nodded off against the cold hard concrete walls. I woke up to the distinctive sound of someone pssst –ing. It was just as dark and cold as it had been when I nodded off, so it took me a minute to realize that I was the only one still awake inside the cell. The noise was coming from outside. I gently placed my father’s head back onto the floor before crawling towards the metal. I squinted, face mashed between two bars, as I raised myself onto my knees.

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“Eden.” He stood tall, hands behind his back and eyes trained forward – away from me. His head was held high but I noticed he flinched at the inflection in my voice. There was no affection there anymore.

“Estellise, please, let me explain.” His voice reflected pain but the side of his face I could see stayed stoic.

The urge to punch something seeped into my muscles. A few deep breaths kept it under wraps, “I don’t want you to explain. Nothing you say will make this better, Eden. Nothing you do will reverse time. Just go away.”

“I cannot do that,” For the first time he chanced a glance at me, “Will you listen to me after I help you?”

“I think you’ve helped us enough.” I hissed.

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Eden sighed and his hands balled up into tight fists behind his back, “I know this is my fault, Estellise. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. If apologies could fix what I did I would say them all. I need you to trust me and I do not want you to hate me.”

“You should have thought of that before you went and betrayed me – us.” I stated.

“I would never hurt you, Estellise. I was trying to escape with you. I-“

“Eden, I told you. I don’t want explanations.”

I slid back down onto my hands and knees, done with this conversation. I could feel irritation itching in my brain and I did not want to feel that way. Not now. There were more important subjects and events to consider.

“I am going to get you out of here. Just hold on, Estellise.” Eden’s voice chased me as I crawled away. I didn’t bother to reply. Instead I curled up next to my father’s unresponsive body and willed myself back into a restless sleep.

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I dreamt of blue snow cones and blueberry flavored kisses. I woke up disgusted with myself. I couldn’t possibly be harboring feeling for Eden after everything that had occurred in last twenty-four hours. The distress that lingered in my belly told me that my sub-conscious was still grieving. I may not have returned Eden’s romantic feeling, if they had even been real, but I had considered him a friend. A comrade. I had trusted him to protect me; with personal information. Knowing that it had all been some well contrived act stung deeper than I imagined.

The cell gate abruptly swung open. Four men entered wearing grim, exhausted expressions. Without speaking a single word one of them snatched Sunburst up by the nape of his neck while two men took either of his arms. Ocean screamed, scratching at the bare air. Flax and Affair managed to hold her back, fear seeded deeply in their green and purple eyes.

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“Where are you taking him?” Ocean screeched.

“It’s alright, Ocean. I’ll be okay.” Sunburst said. A smile was etched onto his lips. I thought I saw it falter.

His words did little to calm her frenzy. Ocean continued to struggle against Flax and Affair. She broke out as the three men were passing through the cage’s door. Her feet flew against the cement, nails digging into the arms of one of Sunburst’s captives, “Let him go!”

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It didn’t take much to sedate her. A quick blow to the face from the fourth guard – who had been holding the door open – sent her sprawling to the hard floor. I ran to her side but Ocean brushed me off. She pushed herself back onto her own two feet and began pacing. Even as her right cheek blackened and swelled she looked like a cage animal. Rage and violence glinted in her blue eyes, waiting, just like a tiger, for the perfect opportunity to strike.

——————————————————
A.N: Happy Father’s Day! :]
I am going to try to have a special out for it but it will contain spoilers for this generation. There’s only one real chapter left of story before we get to the fluff but it’s still just a warning. :]

Generation 2

Chapter Nineteen: With Any Sort of Certainty

Oh my god, I will hold my tongue and I’ll breathe easily
If anyone can say with any sort of certainty that there is something to believe

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The man punched Noir in the face and suddenly the smoke in the air didn’t seem accidental. Crimson seeped between purple fingers as heavy footsteps clomped into the room, following after Noir’s stumbling form. The air in my lungs stilled, every muscle in my body turning to stone. The stranger struck out at Noir again. Surprise wore off just in time and Noir ducked before launching himself at the intruder. They hit the floor in a mass of limbs.

I could barely keep track of who was winning as extremities rose and fell, bodies grappling for the dominant position. Grunts rose to greet my ears as I watched frozen to the bed sheets. The tossing stopped; the stranger on top. A wide forearm pressed firmly against Noir’s throat cut off oxygen, his nose gushing blood. A strangled cry escaped Noir’s busted mouth, something that sounded suspiciously like run.

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I scrambled off the bed. Uncertainty caused my hands to shake. I couldn’t flee – wouldn’t leave Noir there to suffocate and burn. I snatched up the nearest object, a small lamp producing the only light in the room, and brought it down as hard as I could on the unknown man’s back. We were dosed in darkness as the glass shattered, hoarse curses flying from both men. I struck again when he did not budge; again and again. Until finally his attention was drawn to me, lashing out wildly with his free hand. He caught my shirt. The sudden shift of his weight freed Noir and a swift elbow to the temple caused the man to release me.

Then they were tumbling again. Noir was clearly winning. The intruder’s eyes were glazed over, still not recovered from the earlier blow. He took two more strikes to the head before his hands went limp. Noir didn’t stop, fists descending on the man’s vulnerable face long after he had lost the ability to defend it.

“Noir,” My voice was small, “Noir, stop it. We need to go.” I caught his arm, pulling gently when I realized he couldn’t hear me.

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His assault slowly came to a halt and he allowed me to peel him off of the man. His breathing was labored, “Stay close to me. There will be more of them.”

It was becoming uncomfortably warm and every second that ticked caused the air to thicken as we sprinted out into the hallway. I could vaguely hear the crackling of fire, the drumming of our footsteps melting in with the hums of chaos below. Noir was quicker than me, skidding to a halt at the head of the staircase. I slowed, eyebrows knitted in worry at Noir’s lack of movement. I was about to wedge myself between him and the wall when his hand shot out, grabbing my wrist. He turned, pulling me to his chest tightly.

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“Don’t look. You don’t need to see that.”

See what? I wanted to ask him but my arms were pinned to my side by his embrace. When he pulled away his eyes had turned serious, determined, “No matter what happens, Estelle, you need to run. Don’t stop for anyone or anything, you hear me?”

I nodded and then we were dashing back towards the room we had just escaped from. Noir’s hand was linked firmly with mine; practically dragging me the ten feet down the hall. The flames from below casted strange shadows against the walls; turned common household objects into terrors. The air was so thick with smoke by now that my eyes were watering and coughs punctuated our heavy breathing.

Steering us around the unconscious man on the floor, Noir let go of my hand and quickly pulled the curtains to the side. Glass doors opened up onto the second floor balcony reveling suburban houses and a star dotted night sky. The cool night air was a relief compared to the hellish temperature that heated our backs. There was a cacophony of cries as Berries rushed to and fro on the front lawn; some familiar and some not.

“We have to jump.”

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Did you ever think that we’d be three steps from the ledge?
Contemplating awful things and thinking about the end?

Jump? I leaned over the wooden fixture, trying to measure the distance to the ground. It seemed like an impossibly long fall. I caught a flash of teal out of the corner of my eye and quickly located it. It was Eden tearing through the mass of bodies. He was heading straight towards us.

“You’ll have to climb over the ledge and drop down.” Noir instructed, hands on my waist.

He balanced me as I climbed onto the thin railing, adrenaline and fear causing my whole being to shake. Eden had just arrived below, arms out stretched.

“I’ll catch you.” Eden encouraged.

I was just about to let go, allow myself to plummet through the air, when a muted scream breached the sizzling behind us. My mind spun. Mother. She was here somewhere. Jasper. Where were they? Did they need our help? I scanned the crowd again and found none of them. In an instant I was back on the balcony floor, determined to find my mother. I was certain that had been her scream.

“You need to go.” I shook my head, expressed my concerns to Noir with the fastest symbols I could manage, “I’ll find your mother. Go.” Noir ordered.

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When I declined he let out an agitated sigh before wrapping his arms around my waist. My feet left the ground and soon I was dangling over the edge of the balcony. I screamed at the top of my lungs, uncaring that the harsh words were falling on deaf ears. My screams didn’t stop, even as Noir’s strong arms let go and I sunk through the air. Words ceased to form and only the guttural cries of fear ripped from my lungs. I slammed into Eden, dull pain plaguing my neck and extremities where they had collided with Eden’s, and we collapsed into a pile of limbs on the grassy lawn. I glared up, wanting to throw one last curse at Noir, but he was already gone.

Eden was propped up on his elbows; I was sprawled on his lap. “Are you okay?” Eden asked from his place beneath me. His eyes met mine, pure concern evident. I sighed, adverting my gaze and feeling guilty. His jacket had been displaced during our impact and his exposed flesh caught my attention. Black ink peeked out and even though I could only see the right corner of the symbol I knew what it was. Circles and straight lines crisscrossed at an apex and I knew if I moved the fabric out of the way there would be more, diving towards the center.

Nobody mentioned that the pieces wouldn’t fit
You can rearrange them all you want, but the puzzle it was rigged

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Abruptly, as if a switch had been flipped, the warmth in Eden’s expression shattered. Goosebumps washed over my pale flesh as the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I twisted out of his lap, instinct starting to take over, but before I was out of arms reach fingers buried their way into my loose strands. I was pulled to my feet before I crashed against his chest. Pain coursed through my scalp but I bit my tongue, keeping my whimpers silent.

Eden’s grip only tightened as he lowered his mouth to my ear, “You need to listen to me, Estellise. Are you listening?”

I wanted to curse at him. To tell him how much I hated him. At the same time, I wanted to know why. Why would he pretend to care about me, protect me even, if he was just a spy; some agent working for the Resistance. Why would he kiss me? My vocal cords were crippled by fear, heart injured by betrayal. I was afraid if I spoke at all I would break down into a ball of snot and tears. I would not let him have the satisfaction. I nodded stiffly instead.

“I need you to trust me. For just a little while longer, you need to trust me.” I laughed but it was cold. Harsh. Empty. Eden’s grip on my hair loosened and my scalp throbbed with relief, “I’m going to try to get you out of here.”

We swore we’d never stray
Right before we went our separate ways

And now we’re looking back
We’re second guessing all the choices that we made

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He collected both of my wrists into his large palm, holding them behind my back. I could twist them out of his grip easily enough but I didn’t. My heels sunk into the soft dirt, reminding me that I stood no chance against Eden’s long legs. He nudged me, urging me to move forward. Despite being told I was en route to salvation I felt like a prisoner being led to death row. A quick glance around told me that I wasn’t the only one – many of the Uprising members were being led away in vans like cattle. Cries were still echoing out from Jasper’s home; fire eating away slowly at wood and flesh. The grave realization that they had left those grievously wounded inside to die in the flames gnawed at my innards. These men were monsters.

And Eden was one of them.

I turned my head as we passed the side of the house, trying as hard as possible to see if the basement had been discovered. Had Eden known about it? I strained to remember if I had even seen him down there but I couldn’t be sure. I couldn’t be sure of anything anymore. My whole world seemed to be crashing around me with every step I was forced to take.

We were almost to salvation – or whatever Eden had planned for me – when one of his accomplices noticed us. Eden slowed, eventually tugging me to a stop, as the man approached. His shoulders were broad and he towered over me, green eyes burning with disgust. I duplicated his expression.

Who would’ve thought we’d fought so long
We started to see

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“Is this the mutt?” Every word dripped venom. I raised my chin, forcing eye contact with the man.

“Yes, sir.” Eden answered obediently, “I was going to escort her personally back to headquarters.”

“That won’t be necessary, Mr. Casal.” Casal? I shouldn’t have been surprised. Everything Eden had ever told me had been a lie – even his name, “I will take her from here.”

“Right. My apologies.” Eden said, head bowed.

My wrists were only free for a moment before being snatched up in a rough grip. His fingernails dug into my skin, the delicate bones aching from the pressure. Eden watched in silence as I was dragged away, back towards the vans the others had been thrown into. I tried to keep up with my assailant’s long strides but my high heels were having none of it. I kept tripping, heels sinking, until finally he had had enough of me. He struck me with the back of his hand three times. My teeth gnashed together, cheek swelling, as copper flavored blood tinted my saliva. This time I was unable to keep the whimper from escaping. My legs collapsed under my weight and I was dragged the rest of the way; knees scrapping painfully against grassy rocks and, eventually, cement.

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The last thing I saw before the van door slid shut was Eden, eyes filled with… remorse? Guilt? I didn’t get a good enough look to be sure.

Our enemies turn into friends
Our friends to enemies
And we sat somewhere in between

____________________

With Any Sort of Certainty by Streetlight Manifesto

Hope you guys enjoy, I’m not exactly confident in my ability to write fights/conflicts.

Generation 2

Chapter Eighteen Part 1: Friend or Foe

When I woke up the next day I was plagued by confusion and guilt.

Confused because of how acutely aware my body was of Noir – of his touch, of his eyes and lips. Confused because just a few hours before that Eden had kissed me and I hadn’t disliked it. How could being in the same room with Noir cause every fiber of my being to ache while I had enjoyed the caress of Eden just before that? Did it mean I was in lust with Noir and in love with Eden? Or was it the other way around? Had my body betrayed me simply because it had been my first kiss; stolen without permission? How did everyone else navigate these feelings? It seemed there was an impossibly thin line between love, lust and like.

Guilt because I was distracted by such thoughts when my father was missing. This was not the time to ponder love. There would be plenty of time for that when he was found. The thoughts persisted despite the anguish they brought with them. I tried to make myself useful as I contemplated the deepest darkest corner of my affections and emotions. I cooked hot meals for everyone who could eat. I alleviated Jasper of his duties by replacing gauze, setting broken bones and cleaning wounds.

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It was morning, my reflection for the day just beginning, when a pink head bobbled into view. She looked tired, her clothing wrinkled and matted. Normally perfect make-up was flaking onto high cheek bones and her once smooth hair was knotted. The ever present scowl on her face, however, was still there. I turned the burner on the stove off, ready for Shiloh to throw her usual insults at me.

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“You,” Shiloh raised a shaky finger at me, “you need to stay away from Noir.” The moment my hands began to move her lips tugged further downwards, eyes ignited with anger, “For your own good and his. Just please, leave him alone.”

She turned on her heels, dismissing me just as quickly as she had accosted me. There was only one way I was going to have a proper conversation with her – I knew that. Taking a deep breath, I sucked up a lungful of air before expelling it through my teeth, “What’s your relationship with Noir?” It was a question I needed to know. How could I be contemplating love with a man who may or may not be intimately involved with another woman?

She paused, startled, before facing me. A movie roll of emotion streamed onto her face one by one – annoyance, remorse, anger and finally distress, “He’s my friend. My best friend and I need you to stay away from him. I know what girls like you do to men like him.”

“I wouldn’t do anything to Noir!” My voice squeaked, surprise prominent in my tone. Why Shiloh would ever think I would every hurt Noir was beyond me.

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“Yes, you will and you have. You can’t defend yourself so you depend on others to protect you – you depend on Noir to protect you. Why do you think he is sleeping in the bed upstairs, deaf!?” Shame bit my gut and I casted my gaze away from her as she growled in my face, “You’re so fragile and innocent, blindly trying to change the world to benefit yourself without worrying about the causalities that will ensue.”

My mind reeled at her attack. That is not true. It was the only sentence my mind could form, repeating it over and over again until it leaked from my lips.

“Oh really?” She sneered, hands on her hips.

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Pink eyes narrowed as I shook my head, “It’s not! I didn’t want to be a part of this! Noir asked me to! He begged me to join. Day after day, Shiloh. I’ve never once asked for any of this, it was pushed upon me!”

She stumbled for a moment, unsure how to respond. Written on her face was regret and sorrow before it hardened back into the disdain she usually held while speaking to me. “Then leave him. Leave now. Noir will get himself killed fighting for this, for you. Living with the regret of that will haunt you.”

It was then that it clicked. I understood why Shiloh hated me so much.

Is it too late
Nothing to salvage

“Shiloh, what happened to you?”

“What?” She sputtered, alarmed, “Nothing happened, I’m just telling you-“

“It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it,” I start softly, “but you don’t have to project your past onto Noir and me.”

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“I’m telling you that nothing happened!”

I smiled, turning back to the stove top, “Okay. If you ever feel like talking about it, Shiloh, I’ll listen.”

“There’s nothing to talk about!” She snapped. Her footsteps echoed on title as she rushed out of the small red kitchen, huffing the whole way. The scene reminded me a little too much of a mother and daughter and I found myself laughing when she stomped back into the kitchen just a few minutes later.

“If I tell you, will you leave Noir alone?”

“No, but I’m not going to leave him alone if you don’t.”

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Shiloh sighed, defeated. I saw it in the sag of her shoulders and the grind of her step. She slowly wandered out into the empty dining room, taking a seat. I felt smug for the first time in my life as I joined her. I had beat Shiloh. It was terrible, really. She was about to pour out some deep dark secret to me and I was practically beaming. I allowed myself to soak in it, though. It was better than the confusion and guilt I had been sinking in for the past twenty-four hours.

You look away
Clear all the damage

“I went to high school in Bubbleport with Noir and his best friend, Ashe,” Shiloh bit her bottom lip, drumming her dainty fingers as she spoke, “Ashe was a trouble maker, always had been. He was tall and good looking and he wasn’t pink. No, he had shaggy gray hair that fell into wide eyes and the softest off-white lips. He had fallen in love me long before I knew he existed but once I was within his grasp he wouldn’t let me go. I resisted, of course, but it didn’t last long. He swept me off my feet and washed away any doubt I may have had by bringing me to the Bubbleport Uprising. We were young and dumb and very cocky. We thought because we had an organization backing our love we could do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. They made sure to prove us wrong.”

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She paused, letting out a shaky breath. I flashed Shiloh a small smile in an attempt to be encouraging, “It happened at a small park. We were holding hands as we walked, displaying our love for all to see. There were men – three of them – and they started to make a ruckus. Ashe told them to get lost, to leave me alone. Before long two of the men were holding Ashe down while the third pushed me to the floor. They said if I wanted a different colored man’s love, they would give it me. They made him watch before they- before they killed him,” A single tear rolled down Shiloh’s cheek, “the police found a ring on Ashe, an engagement ring. He was going to propose to me. Now he’ll never get to marry anyone.”

My hand found the small of Shiloh’s back, rubbing soft circles as she sobbed quietly. We sat together, me consoling her, until her shaking ceased and her voice was only a soft quiver, “That’s why you need to leave Noir alone. After Ashe died he made it his life goal to legalize marriage between all Berries. He puts himself into enough danger without you in the picture.”

Are you friend or foe?

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, “but I can’t just leave. I promised Noir – I promised everyone – that I would help. I can’t let them down.”

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The emotion slipped off of Shiloh’s pink features. She stood silently, only pausing when she reached the doorway, “You are sentencing him to death.” And then she was gone.

****

The promises
Hollow concessions

Shiloh’s story resonated inside my head for the rest of the day. Knowing her past helped me to understand her hatred. She knew Noir better than I did – longer. She must have known his impulses, how he would gladly throw himself in front of a bullet for any member of the Uprising. It was the fact that these bullets were more than likely going to be aimed at me that caused her spite. The fact that she saw me as helpless, like she had been that night in the park. Her story cleared up much for me but it had not answered one question, the one question that had been tugging at my heart strings.

What was Shiloh to Noir? There was only one person I could ask.

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The walk to Noir’s recovery room seemed long and tedious. I almost talked myself out of confronting him numerous times before I finally knocked on the door a few times. There was no response. I frowned, discouraged, until I remembered that Noir couldn’t hear me knocking. I cracked the door slightly, peering through the opening. Noir was inside, sitting on the maroon colored comforter. His chest was still bared but I was relieved that he had thrown on a pair of pajama bottoms since the last time I had visited.

“You can come in, Estelle.” He waved me in and patted the empty space next to him. I kept my eyes low as I crossed the room, crawling onto the bed much like we had the night before. This time, however, I kept enough space between us so we were not touching.

‘I wanted to talk to you about,’ I realized we had never made a sign representing Shiloh. Instead I spelt out her name, ‘S-H-I-L-O-H.’

“I’m sorry, Estelle. I’ve told her a dozen times to leave you alone-“

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I held my hands up, shaking my head rapidly, ‘No. Um, I just spoke to her a few minutes ago and she told me to stay away from you. I was wondering… what is she to you?’

“What is Shiloh to me?” Noir repeated the question, eyebrows furrowing, “She’s my friend, Estelle. I’ve known since I was fourteen but we didn’t become close until we were almost eighteen. We’ve been through a lot together and I’ve always tried to be there for her.”

‘She told me what happened. Between her and Ashe,’ I bit my lip, feeling my face flush at just the thought of what I was going to ask, ‘So you’ve never been intimate… with her… after what happened?’

Noir stared at me blankly and for a moment my embarrassment spread wildly though my veins. It was stupid to ask. I should have kept my questions to myself, “You mean have we ever had sex?” He asked. His tone was bland but I nodded, eyes casted at the blankets under us, “No. I have never had sex with Shiloh. We were there for each other when Ashe died and every event after, that’s all. There were a few times where she tried but I always turned her down. It felt wrong to take comfort in my best friend’s girl. Though, I’ve never been a saint, Estelle. I’ve slept with a lot woman; broken even more hearts.”

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“Oh.” I mumbled, a red hot mixture of jealousy and disappointment building in the pit of my stomach. Images of beautiful purple women flashed through my mind; their make-up perfectly done and backs arched as Noir’s hand trailed down their spine. Being envious of women I had never met was silly and I began to pick lint from the bed sheets, trying not to make eye contact with Noir. He would surely know what I had been thinking.

And innocent show of affection
I touch your hand

Rough fingertips brushed my chin, holding it gently before forcing my head up, “Are you jealous?” His lips were pulled into a half-smile, an arrogant glint in his eyes.

He was right. He knew he was right. I knew he was right. Yet I denied it with a huff and a slowly enunciated no.

“Remember the game we played the last time we were at Jasper’s house? The one where we have to answer questions honestly?” I nodded and his smirk widened, “I do believe I still had one left.” I gulped, nodding again slowly. “Are you jealous?”

I could lie but Noir would call me on it. He would see right through me, just like he had when we began this game, when I had bumped into him at that bistro. I had been transparent from the very moment I met him; because from that moment on, Noir had set my world on fire, ‘Yes.’

Noir leaned in. His mouth was warm against my ear, the studs hard under his lips. A soft hand on his bare chest ceased his descent and he retreated back to his side of the bed, questions in his eyes.

‘I had one left, as well.’ His laugh vibrated in the air as he waved for me to continue, ‘Do you like me?’ Because if it was one thing I was certain of, it was that Eden had affections towards me. Eden made that clear. Meanwhile, Noir was a mystery of soft touches and smoldering eyes, teasing words and kind gestures.

“Estelle,” My name was wrapped in his soft laughter, “if you would have let me finish, you wouldn’t have had to ask.” In the next moment Noir was kissing me, mouth dancing against mine. I responded instantly. My body soared to life against the feel of him, silently begging for more.

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What we had might not have been love. Perhaps it was pure hormones and chemicals. I didn’t care. I wanted Noir. In all the ways a woman could possibly want a man; in ways that I did not crave Eden. If it wasn’t love I would deal with it when I knew. When my heart was broken in two. For now I wanted my skin to ached at his touch and his lips to cause a thick fog in my head. I gasped, startled when Noir gently guided me down to soft mattress. He crawled on top of me though his hands did not stray, deepening our kiss into feathers and cotton.

It only lifted when the scent of smoke penetrated my trance. I twisted my head, breaking contact with Noir’s lip.

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I tapped my nose and watched as the lines between Noir’s brow deepened. I didn’t need to mouth or sign anything for a mutual understand to click between us, “Stay here. I’ll go downstairs.” Noir said, untangling his limbs from mine.

I wanted to tell him to be careful but he was already off the bed, heading towards the door. The words came too late for when Noir opened the bedroom door a man was there to greet him.

Generation 2

Chapter Seventeen: Reunited

AN: I really hate this chapter, it feels rushed and really blah to me but I don’t know how to fix it and it’s already so overdue. :[ I hope you guys like it anyways. Thank you all for your support, as always! ❤

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When we arrived in Sugar Valley I guided Eden to my little home by the waterfall. Neither of us discussed the kiss as he navigated curvy roads, pulling up on the grassy plains that surrounded my house. An edgy nerve crawled into the pit of my stomach, bile rising to the back of my throat as I scrambled out of the car. A quick glance through the exposed windows revealed nothing but darkness as dusk settled around us. Twisting the doorknob revealed that front door was still locked. Eden gave the front door a two strong knocks. They went unanswered.

“No one is home.” I whispered, the words tasting sour on my tongue. Over the past few years my Mema hadn’t left the property once; my mother rarely. Eden cupped his hands over his eyes, pressing his nose as close as the glass plains would allow. I watched as his eyes wrinkled, squinting in an attempt to pierce the darkness that swallowed up our vision.

“It does not look like there was a forced entry nor are there signs of a struggle.”

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The words were meant to be comforting but the sound of his voice caused the knots in my stomach to tighten. The knot exploded into a furry of butterflies as Eden’s fingertips fluttered across my arm. My breath caught in my throat, the contact muddling my thoughts. In the same moment I was propelled behind Eden’s back as he spun around. The crunch of cement resounded in my ears and I found myself standing on tip-toes in order to peer over Eden’s wide shoulders. A white SUV rolled up, tires slowing as it jerked to a stop. Eden caught my wrist in a strong grip as I tried to run forward.

I whipped around, hair smacking me in the face, “It’s my sister, Eden. It’s Panda!” His grip loosened and I tugged myself free, feet flying over wooden boards and across soft blades of grass, “Panda!” I cried. Emotions surged within me, threatening to bubble over as her beautiful silvery hair appeared behind the car door. Her eyes were wide, surprise written clearly in the crease of her brow. I slowed as tear stained cheeks became evident, her eyes smeared with make-up.

“You just. You spoke?” Pandora’s voice was hoarse but the disbelief caused her to squeak.

“A lot happened in Bubbleport…” I trailed off, eyebrows furrowing, “Why are you crying. What happened? Why weren’t you answering my phone calls?”

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The back of her pale hands rose, gently attempting to wipe away the ugly black circles under her eyes, “Half the city’s phones stopped working a few days ago. I-I-I,” her voice caught in her throat, tears threatening to pour as she spoke. Pandora had always been the pillar of strength in my life – in my family. For her to be shaken up, on the verge of tears, I knew something bad had to have happened, “M-mema fad-ded while you we-re-re gone and Father…” she couldn’t finish her sentence. She collapsed against the side of the SUV, hands clutching at the side mirror desperately.

“What happened to Daddy, Pandora?”My question went unanswered, soft sobs crippling my sister’s ability to speak, “Pandora! What. Happened?”

“I don’t know!” Pandora screamed, distress oozing out of every fiber of her being, “He never came home Friday! There have been police everywhere! Randomly stopping people. Questioning people. Arresting them. Jasper’s been trying to organize a search party for him but with all the refugees we just don’t have the man power.”

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“How many are there?” Eden asked as he took his place beside me, face solemn.

Pandora took a few deep breaths and I found myself copying her example. Composure was key; we had to collect ourselves if we were going to benefit anyone, “Almost two dozen.” Panda eventually answered, standing tall again, “Most of them are in Jasper’s house. Spare bedrooms, basement. A few are in the loft of the Sour Apple. It’s a mess.”

“And Noir?” I whispered.

“He’s there…” She trailed off, running a hand through stray silvery strands, “in Jasper’s house. He’s doing… okay.”

“Just okay?” The words were thick on my tongue. My sister’s eyes filled with sorrow, dropping down to the grass. I knew she was debating what to tell me and I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong. What had happened to him in that smog?

Pandora’s wasn’t Noir’s biggest fan but she wouldn’t wish harm upon him, “He’ll live.” She finished and her tone indicated she was done with that topic, “Mom is there, helping Ivy. She’s trying to keep her mind off of Dad by making herself useful. You should go see her. She’s worried sick about you.”

I nodded, “What about you? What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to figure out what the fudge is going on in this town.” She was practically growling as she stomped past me.

“Be safe out there!” I called as she retreated towards our house.

Pandora paused long enough to respond, “You better not let them touch a hair on her head, Eden.” Her usual confident demeanor had returned; the threat evident in her voice.

“The Princess is safe with me.” His response reassured Panda enough to get her securely inside, door locked tight behind her. Eden motioned to Cephei’s yellow vehicle, dull smile on his lips, “After you.”

*

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My Mema had faded and I hadn’t been able to say goodbye. I had missed her funeral. I would never see her wrinkled smile or hear her words of wisdom. It was all I could think about on the way to Jasper’s. If I did manage to push away those thoughts – even for a moment – my Father’s smiling face would be projected before my eyes. My mind’s way of reminding me of what I still had to lose. Of torturing me slowly with what ifs. Never knowing if I could have changed the events had I just stayed home. Realizing that my last words to my Father might have been a lie.

I wondered briefly how my mother would react when I arrived. Surely she knew I had not been staying at Ocean’s house; had lied to her face before running off to a dangerous city. I worried about Noir – wishing with every cell that made up my being for him to be okay. I hoped when we arrived he would greet me with a smile before taking me into his arms.

Something in my gut told me I was wishing for too much.

Jasper greeted us with a mixture of relief and apprehension. He seemed nervous and the bags under his eyes made him look like a junkie. I had been invited into his home before – when Affair had been hurt – and it had been clean and well kept. As Jasper allowed us inside it dawned on me that the red berry was in over his head.

The furniture that had been well spaced was pushed into a corner; patients littering the floor instead. They laid in sleeping bags and gurneys, the red carpet stained black from the copious amount of blood that had been spilt. The air had a pungent scent to it – a mixture of copper, medicine and perspiration. The curtains were drawn tight, keeping curious Berries at bay. Jasper signaled for us to be discreet as we tip-toed around and over slowly rising chests. The few that had bare flesh exposed seemed the worse for wear, blood splattered gauze wrapped around their extremities. A few had facial wounds; lacerations or burns or both. It was more than any individual could handle alone.

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Jasper led us to the second story, soundlessly moving into a bedroom. It was spacious and sported a king size bed in the middle. Under the covers someone was sleeping, tossing restlessly against whatever dream had ensnared them. Jasper gently peeled back the comforter to reveal white skin and hair, her face clenched in pain. She awoke at the small gesture, eyes flying open as she sat up in surprise. The circles under Jasper’s eyes matched my mother’s.

“Estellise?” Her voice broke; shuttering as if she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. My heart shattered as she choked back a sob. I had caused her so much unnecessary pain and worry. She had already lost one child; I never thought she could handle the thought of losing another. Yet here she was, striving to help when I knew she was on the brink of destruction, “Oh, thank Berry you are alright. You’re alright!”

She practically jumped out of bed to reach me, clothes wrinkled and stained from the work she had been doing earlier. I sniffled, returning the hug she encased me in. I stayed enveloped in her arms until she pulled back, looking me up and down for injuries. The scratches that lined my arms and legs were puffy and pink, almost completely healed but noticeable enough to catch my Mother’s attention, “What happened?”

“I’m fine, Mom. Really,” My words caused her eyes to widen and she pulled my head back into her chest, squeezing tightly.

All suspicions concerning my wounds were dropped as she whispered in my ear. “Oh my. Your voice. Sweetie, it’s so beautiful.”

I allowed her to coddle me in silence, unsure how to respond to her compliment. My voice still sounded foreign to my ears, “Eden and Noir took good care of me, I’m sorry I made you worry.”

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Her eyes hardened at Noir’s name and a scowl protruded from her lips, “You lied to me.” The mood in the room shifted. Jasper quickly excused himself and Eden followed suit. It was obvious neither man thought they belonged in this discussion.

“I did.” I was expecting a lecture.

Instead I received another bone crushing hug and my mother sighed in relief, “We can talk about that later. As long as you are okay. So much happened while you were gone. Your Mema-“ she couldn’t even properly begin the sentence before tears streaked her cheeks, “and your father. He-“

I stopped my mother, shaking my head against her shoulder blade. She had aged a life time in little more than a week; the lines circling her lips seemed more prominent and wrinkles on her forehead deeper, “Pandora told me. I’m so sorry about Mema, Mama. I should have been here for the funeral, to say goodbye-”

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“Shhhh. You couldn’t have known baby. You couldn’t have known.”

“We’ll find Daddy. We will. You’ll see, Mama. He will be fine.” The words were meant to bring comfort to my mother but I also found solace in them. It had to be true; Dad had to be out there alive and well.

*

It was hours before I untangled myself from my mother’s arms and warm bed sheets. The sun had long set, darkness settling around the quint red home. I crept out into the barren hallway, heart in my throat. My hand shook as I reached for the door handle, unsure what I should be expecting. I took a deep breath, steadying myself as I gathered my courage.

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The lights inside the room were off, dosing the inhabitant inside in velvet obscurity. He was sleeping, and for a moment I contemplated sliding back into the hallway. Morbid curious got the best of me, fueling my need to know the physical condition my recklessness had left Noir in. I waited for my eyes to adjust before slipping inside, dodging night stands and dressers along the way. I had made it to the foot of the bed before my big toe slammed into a bed post. A sharp intake of air rushed through my lungs before being hissed out in pain. Light flickered on, turning my vision red behind clenched eyelids.

“Estelle?” My name rolled off Noir’s tongue much a little loudly for this time of night, the pronunciation muddled by sleep. I quickly straightened, dropping my offended appendage back to the floor in order and raised a single finger to my lips, giving him a curt nod. My cheeks colored as Noir’s bare purple chest filled my vision, his messy hair left to its own devices without a headband.

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“My bad, still trying to get used to speaking.” His voice sounded clearer, more coherent, but now I had to strain to understand what he saying he was speaking so low. His statement itself didn’t make much sense, and I found my eyebrows furrowing in confusion.

“Getting used to speaking?” I angled my head away from him, trying desperately not to stare at the ample amount of bare skin he was bearing to the cool night air. Thankfully, his waist was still hidden under covers or I would have matched Jasper’s drapes.

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“Sorry, I can’t hear you.”

Noir had my complete attention now, “What do you mean you can’t…”  As I spoke sorrow filled his eyes and his fists gripped the blankets until his knuckles turned white. The meaning of his words dawned on me then and the horror of that reality caused me to stumble backwards.

“You’re deaf.” I whispered more for myself than him.

“Hey, hey. Don’t you run away from me.” He called, a little too loudly, pushing the blankets aside. He stood swiftly, too swiftly, but quickly began stumbling as soon as his bare feet touched the ground. I was by his side before either of us could blink, helping him to slowly sit back down on the mattress. Once he was settled in I crawled across the bed, positioning myself in front of him. Our knees were barely touching and I tried not to pay attention to his boxers as I began to sign.

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‘I’m so sorry, Noir. I never meant for this-‘ His hand capture mine mid ASL, a small smile tugging on his purple lips.

“It might not be permanent, Estelle. My ear drums ruptured during the riot. Ivy says they usually heal on their own. If not, I might be able to get surgery.” I frowned. Possibly being permanently disabled was nothing to scoff at and yet here Noir was, acting as if he had gotten stung by a wasp instead of both his ear drums popped.

‘What if they don’t heal? What if they can’t fix it?’

He shrugged, as if his potential loss of hearing was insignificant, “Then I’ll be deaf. I’m alive, you’re alive. I can keep practicing my ASL with you, though I guess you don’t really need it anymore.”

I shook my head, brushing a stray strand of white out of my eyes, ‘This is my fault.’

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“You didn’t ask me to follow you into that riot, Estelle. You aren’t responsible for my actions.” Noir reached out, fingertips gracing the bottom of my hair gingerly, “What happened to your hair?”

‘Oh, it was cut and dyed,’ the look in Noir’s eye was teasing and I knew he was going to bring up the various times he had suggested I do the very same thing but argued against it. I beat him to the punch, ‘against my will.’ His fingertips glided down the side of my cheek bone before resting on my hand. The contact caused me to shuttered and I noticed that his hands were rough and calloused where Eden’s were soft and smooth.

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I’ve read hundreds of romance novels over the course of my short life; visualized dozens of passages about love and the feelings that came with it. I had never truly comprehended the descriptions before. Never understood how a single touch could light your skin on fire or a crooked smile caused your stomach degenerate into a million butterflies. As I sat there with Noir, his hand lingering on my fingers, I finally understood.

When I left his recovery room that night the floor felt like clouds and I was sure I was hovering above the ground; ready to take flight at any moment.

Generation 2

Chapter Sixteen: A Moment of Reprieve

                I dialed the same three phone numbers for over an hour before I finally gave up. No one was answering, not even Panda. I was alone in Cephei’s living room – the two women hadn’t made their way back to the small apartment yet. Eden had sat with me for quite a while. He only left a few minutes prior to my resignation when his own cell phone rang. Excusing himself, he had slipped out the front door and into the narrow hallway.

                Despair washed over me. I desperately wanted to head back to Sugar Valley to check on my parents but we had to find Noir. I could not just abandon him – even if I didn’t know where he was. Noir had done so much for me over the past few months: he tried his hardest to protect me while opening my eyes to how much of the world I had shut out. I had locked my voice in a safe and intentionally forgotten the combination until he found me. Curling up into a ball, I let soft sobs lull me into my recurring nightmare.

                It was a scene I knew all too well -Sugar Valley’s shore being nursed by the tides under the light of a full moon. Mithos and Pandora playing in the sand a few feet away while I nervously fiddled with my fingertips. A loud whimper snagged my attention and my head snapped to the side. Two men came into view, relentlessly kicking the defenseless animal that was caught in between them. I didn’t fight the dream. I knew no matter how much I screamed and shouted my legs would still march forward. I had long ago succumbed to the horrors that were about to unfold.

                My voice rang out in the chilly night air. Red and purple heads jerked upwards, eyes fogged by juice. They started towards me, their rowdy aura dissipating into disgust. Slurs were thrown my way, words much too harsh and tones much too frigid. A red hand rose and I knew I would close my eyes and flinch away from rough hands. Only I didn’t. I couldn’t. Something urged me to keeping looking, to watch, so I did.

                And then I saw it. A red forearm inked with circles and straight-lines that crisscrossed at their apex before diving back down to tangle at their middle. Everything froze, as if I had hit the pause button, before the nightmare shattered, falling around me like millions of pieces of shattered glass.

                I woke up gasping for air. The despair that had nestled into the pit of my stomach had doubled in the short time I had been napping. Those men had been part of the Resistance. No matter what action I had taken that night, they were bound to assault us once their intoxicated fun had concluded. It wasn’t my fault that Mithos had been killed but that revelation didn’t make me feel better. It made everything worse; as if my brother’s demise had been written in the stars before any of us were ever born.

                I buried my face into my hands, taking deep breaths to calm my racing pulse. I didn’t look up when the front door open and clicked shut. Didn’t pay attention as the couch beside me sagged with weight.

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                “How are you feeling, Princess?” I shrugged in response, still refusing to remove my hands from my face, “You look like you are in psychical pain. Did you get hurt?” His hand landed on my shoulder, gentle and kind, but I shrugged it off.

                “I’m fine.” I muttered, “I just want to go home.” As soon as the words escaped my lips I knew it was more than a desire. I needed to go home. It was the only possible solution to this entire mess. I wouldn’t be abandoning Noir – I would be gathering our friends together to broaden the search. I could figure out what was happening with my parents – why no one in my family was answering their phones. Sugar Valley was the perfect solution to all of my problems, “I need to go home, Eden. Will you take me home?”

                “I would love to bring you home, princess, but I do not think that is a good idea.”

                “Why not?”

                “For one, we do not possess a safe method of travel.” He pointed out. I pouted, knowing that he was right. Noir’s car was at the apartment Shiloh had rented for us, but the keys were more than likely on the missing Berry. Not that I would be okay with commandeering the purple death machine if the keys were still in the apartment, “why the sudden urge to jump ship?”

                “I… when we were at the station I found more than just that letter I gave to you,” I could barely hear myself speak and I saw Eden lean inwards, straining his ears to understand, “they had Sugar Valley circled on a map. It mentioned searching for me there and my… my family.”

                “Another reason we should not go.”

                I whipped my head around, unable to conceal the hurt and anger in my voice, “We have to go! They aren’t responding to my calls, Eden! They could be in danger and it would be entirely my fault.” I had to take a deep breath to keep myself from falling into another fit of sobs.

                 “I am sure your parents would rather you stay here – safe- than endangering yourself for their sake.” I was going to argue. Wanted to dispute his claim but I knew he was right. Before I could vocalize my discontent with his objection – despite how right it might have been – the door open and Cephei walked in, pausing in the door frame when she saw the two of us.

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                “Oh. Um. Should I leave you two alone?” She stuttered, rubbing the back of her head. I shook mine in response, head falling back down into my hands. Cephei moved further into the room, closing the door behind her, “I have some good news, I think.” I perked up at that, eyes wide and alert as I waited for her to spill the news, “Noir’s alive. Or at least, the last time anyone in the Bubbleport Uprising saw him, he was. He was injured, but no one seemed to know how serious the wounds were.”

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                “Where is he?” I could barely keep the desperation from dripping off each syllable.

                “Sugar Valley. The Uprising here doesn’t have a well-equipped medical center nor any trained medical personnel. Rumors say Sugar Valley has a surgeon on staff,” she paused, her face scrunched up, “most of the injured were rushed that way, actually.”

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                “That must have been what tipped them off…” Eden murmured, causing Cephei to raise an eyebrow.

                “Tipped who off?”

                Eden looked up at her in surprise, as if he hadn’t realized he had spoken out loud, “The Resistance and the BPD. They’re looking in Sugar Valley for Estellise. The sudden influx of Uprising members must have led them there.”

                “We have to go.” I whined, pout forming on my lips the moment a stern “No.” left Eden’s.

                There was a moment of silence in which I contemplated throwing a temper tantrum. I wasn’t sure if it would accomplish anything, though. I was fairly certain, actually, that it might be detrimental to my plans. Cephei interrupted my thought process just as I was about to concede, “Eden, can I speak to you for moment.”

                Eden’s teal head bobbed before he stood. I froze into the cushions, feeling helpless. Constantly kept in the dark, left behind and useless. The deep freeze of depression was soon boiled away by anger and annoyance. Who were they to exclude me from a conversation that more than likely revolved around me? How could they possible entertain the thought of knowing what was best for me?

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I peeled myself away from the couch, energized by these thoughts. An image of me bursting through the front door and demanding inclusion flashed before my eyes. I settled on sneaking over to their location and pressing my ear against the wooden door that separated us.

                “Then go with her,” Cephei. I was sure of it, “Take my car. Keep her safe but you cannot hold her here.”

                “I refuse to let the Princess get herself killed.”

                “She will hate you if you do this; if even one person gets harmed. Her whole family is over there. Everything and everyone that she knows and loves could be in danger. You cannot keep her from trying to save them.”

                “Yet you wish to keep me from saving her.”

                The inflection of Cephei’s voice turned sour, “No. I am asking you to protect her as she grows. We cannot hinder her development, Eden. Have some faith in the girl.”

                Eden’s response was muffled, voice too low for me to make sense of. Silence followed and I rushed back to my previous location when I heard their feet begin to shuffle. I had just dived back onto the couch when they entered, door swinging wide open. I feigned innocence as the duo approached me – Eden looking sullen while Cephei seemed expectant.

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                “Let’s go.” His voice was barely a whisper but my face split into a grin, excitement coursing through my veins. Eden turned on his heels and left without another word and I hurried to follow, only pausing briefly to hug Cephei, “Thank you.”

*

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We were halfway to Sugar Valley before I had to use the restroom. I tried to hold it but five hours was a long time to keep liquid in your bladder. I knew if I didn’t voice my concern to Eden soon I would have an accident, so I sucked up my embarrassment and asked him to get off the highway at the next stop. He changed lanes smoothly, using his blinker as the exit for Apple Pie Plains came into sight.

It felt like we were driving forever before a small rest stop came into view. He pulled into the parking lot, effortlessly gliding into a space, “I’ll come in with you.” He didn’t leave room for arguing and I really didn’t want to. With my teal guide leading the way, we weaved through double doors and past a few fast food joints to the women’s room. He stopped just short of the door, standing with his arms crossed like a guard to a castle.

When I emerged a few moments later Eden was in the same spot I had left him. Only, he had a snow cone in his hand. He offered me the syrup coated ice and I accepted with a smile, “You didn’t get yourself one?”

“No, I do not particularly like sweets.”

I raised a brow, licking the blue raspberry flavored treat, “How do you not like sweets.”

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Eden shrugged, setting a leisurely pace for us as we walked, “Many Berries do not care for them.” He stated, as if that answered my question at all. I rolled my eyes, taking another bite as silence settled between us.

             Cephei’s car came into view and Eden walked around the passenger side in order to open up the door for me. I placed my hand on his chest to stop him, lifting up the cold slushy delight to his lips, “Try it.”

                “I’d rather not have bright blue lips like you.” His voice was serious but a hint of a smile played on the corner of his mouth.

                I ignored his teasing, putting on my best pout, “There is no way you hate all sweets. Just this once?”

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                “If you insist,” It came out causal even as his hand reached up, gently moving my arm out of his face. His head bent down; swooping in to catch the briefest taste of my lips. The sticky juice trickled down my arm as warm lips fogged my head. By the time I had recovered, Eden’s face was contorted in confusion. Conflicted, guilt and desire mingled interchangeably before he finally spoke, “I apologize. That was out of line, Princess.”

                “It’s fine.” I whispered, fingertips fluttering to my tingling lips. I wasn’t sure if it really was fine – if I really had wanted my first kiss to be stolen in a moment such as this. It felt natural to reassure Eden, however, so I continued, “Really, it was… nice.”

                Surprise claimed his eyes and for a moment I thought he might kiss me again. My breath hitched; every muscle coiling tightly as he moved closer. The car door opened and I realized a beat too late that he was expecting me to climb inside.

                We didn’t speak on the way to Sugar Valley. Guilt puddled in my gut: how could I be so carefree during such a pivotal time? I was an awful daughter; horrible friend.

Even so, my lips sung on.

Generation 2

Chapter Fifteen: Unearthing the Roots

We left as soon as the curfew would allow. The sun rose behind us, turning the sky light shades of pink and brilliant reds as large fluffy clouds floated lazily through the sky. On foot, Eden led the way with a vigilant eye. His longs legs kept our pace brisk and he was silent except for the occasional request for me to keep up. We passed vaguely familiar landmarks and intersections but my attention was caught on a row of thick, thorny bushes that lined the sidewalk. My memory of the riot was hazy at best yet I was fairly certain that we must have been close to the small park it had taken place in. Despite my certainty there was no evidence left behind to confirm my suspicions. All the blood that had been spilt was gone – washed away by rain or hoses. No tattered clothes or picket signs; just cars and the putrid smell of gasoline wafting off hot pavement.

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The police station had seen better days. Its small frame was abused with hateful slurs and angry spray paint. I couldn’t help but think whoever had been tagging it was brave. Eden probably would have thought they were reckless and stupid. I bit my bottom lip as we approached the glass doors. Two armed officers were standing guard, frisking every Berry that requested entry. A short line had formed and we quickly slipped into it without a word. I was fiddling with my thumbs, trying to get the butterflies out of my stomach, when Eden bent down and whispered in my ear, “Just smile. I’ll handle everything.”

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I nodded, felling the blood rush to my face as his warm breath brushed against my lobe. The butterflies went wild and I felt jittery all over again. When it was our turn to be examined by the officers Eden stepped forward but not before catching my hand in his own and pulling me close to his side. I looked up at him as he stared straight ahead, confusion written plainly on my face.

“Due to the overwhelming amount of Berries, we have to inquire about your reason for visiting before we can allow you entry.” The taller, green Berry recited smoothly. It was apparent he had been spitting that line out for an unknown amount of time.

Eden nodded, face stoic as he spoke, “We just wish to relay information about Thursday’s riot.”

My mouth went to drop but Eden’s hand gripped mine tighter and I remembered his earlier advice. Smile. I forced my lips up, flashing my weak smile towards the blue woman in uniform as her eyes swept over our forms in surprise.

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“We thank you for any information you can provide us with. Unfortunately, we still have to pat you two down.” He warned, though the hard edge of his voice had disappeared.

“Of course,” Eden stated, dropping my hand and spreading his arms and legs. The two officers silently went over his legs and waist, patting his chest down quickly. I followed suit, eyes clenched shut when green hands lingered on my breasts. They let us go without another word, moving to the side to allow us entry.

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Eden scoped up my hand again, leading me through the double doors and into the packed ten by ten lobby. Berries of all colors were congregated around three desks that lined the back of the room, eagerly awaiting their turn to ask questions or give information. I bit my bottom lip as Eden led me around the line and towards the back – where a sole officer stood to prevent unauthorized citizens from slipping into the hallway lined with cells and offices.

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The red officer rolled his eyes at our approaching figures, gesturing to the long line as soon as we were within ear shot, “No entry. Whatever your business is, please get in line. Someone will be with you shortly.”

Eden shook his head, “There is no time. I need to speak to someone immediately.”

“Sure you do, bud. Just like everyone else here-“

“I have information regarding the Uprising’s next move.” Eden interrupted and I thought he looked rather smug when a look of surprise took over the officer’s red features.

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“Right,” there was a pause before he continued to speak, “I’ll get someone to assist you straightaway, then.”

The man disappeared down the long hallway – simply putting up a chain to keep people out in his absence. Eden guided us to a row of abandoned plastic chairs, sitting down as he waited for someone to arrive and take care of us. I sat down next to him, hands clasped in my lap. I didn’t understand how lying to the police was going to help us find Noir. Was he hoping to lead them on a wild goose chase and then try to weasel some secret information out of them? He was a great conversationalist – he had gotten us out of trouble in Moon Pie Falls – perhaps he was extremely confident in his ability to pull wool over their eyes.

The red officer kept his promise and a new pink man came to our aid just a minute later, “Hello. I am Officer Gum.” He greeted, eyes pacing back and forth from me to Eden.

I merely smiled as Eden stood, taking the man’s hand in his own for a quick shake, “It is a pleasure to be of service, Officer Gum. My name is Eden Deluge.”

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After introductions and a second of small talk Officer Gum was motioning Eden to follow him down that long hallway, “Wait here, Snow. I’ll be right back.”  Snow? Who was Snow? I blinked up at him, dumbfounded, until I realized he was referring to me. Right. I nodded, forcing another smile as I waved at his departing form.

I vaguely heard Eden remark that I was his sister. Officer Gum replied that it was a shame that I was colorless. If only he knew the real shame was that I was a hybrid – a multi-colored taboo child. I pushed those thoughts out of my mind and tried to concentrate on what was happening around me.

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Minutes ticked by and soon I grew restless. Surely I could be of some help. My eyes darted around, scanning every detail of the lobby. The red guard had never returned to his post. The chain was securely in place – though not much of an obstacle should anyone really want to get past it. The three officers at the desks were so preoccupied with their work I was sure that they would never notice if I just slipped down the hall.

I wouldn’t go far, I promised myself. Just enough to peak through the windows, perhaps find out where they were holding the prisoners and if Noir was among them.

My stomach was whirling as I stood up. I half expected everyone in the room to turn towards me and stare. They didn’t. No one noticed me as I moved towards the chained off hallway. They didn’t even blink in my direction when I ducked under the cold metal. It was almost too easy.

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Now that I was committing the crime, I didn’t know where to start. I probably should have thought this through better – what if I got caught? What if someone had seen me and told a police officer? Would I be arrested? Hurt? Killed? I swallowed the knot that had formed in my throat and forced my feet forward. There was no backing out now.

It was empty and cold in the hallway. I made sure to step lightly, not wanting to make a sound, but sometimes my sneakers would squeak on the polished tile. I would flinch, half expecting alarms and red lights to start flashing, only to be rewarded with stark silence. I tried a few of the doors that lined the hall to no avail. They were all locked shut, their contents hidden behind wood and steel. I was getting pretty far, too far, when a knob finally turned. My eyes widened and I gradually peeled the door away from the frame.

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It was a large room which caused me to believe it belonged to a fairly high ranking officer. The wooden desk was cluttered with open files and photographs. A leather chair was situated in the nook and behind the chair was a large cork pin-board. All sorts of information were tacked onto its surface. Notes, plans, symbols, a map and one large photograph of the statue my father had created. I stumbled around the room before making my way in front of the board, examining the contents slowly.

There were numerous letters signed by different personals. Most seemed to be about decreasing the hostility in Bubbleport. They all had one thing in common. Next to the signed named was an intricate symbol. The circles and straight lines crisscrossed at their apex before diving back down. I knew that symbol. I had seen it somewhere before. I just didn’t know where. I traced the symbol with my eyes a few times, trying to engrain the sign into my memory, before I snatched one off the letters off of the board and folded it up neatly. I shoved it into my pocket, hoping it would come in handy.

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The next item that caught my attention was the map. Sugar Valley was circled in red with scribbles surrounding it. First known exhibit to host Can You See Me Now. I frowned, but continued to read. Possible home of the fiend and its family. Begin search here. My hand flew over my mouth. All those phone calls from my mother! Had they found my family? Were they looking for them? Were Mama and Papa on the run with Pandora?

A soft sob bubbled up in my throat and broke through my teeth as the door to the office opened up. I twirled on my heels, tears pouring down my cheeks, as the red guard from earlier stood in front of me.

“What are you doing in here?” He asked, suspicion and a hint of sympathy tinting his tone.

I choked back another sob as my mind went into survival mode. All the fear from before flooded my system, overloading it, causing me to speak without thinking, “I’m lost.” I wailed, wiping away the tears as they continued to pour out.

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“Lost?” He mimicked, “You aren’t supposed to be back here, period.”

“I know,” I moaned, “but I had to pee and everyone was so busy and you weren’t there so I just, I just thought-“ Coherent words ceased to spill from my lips after that, too broken up with hiccups and snuffles.

Red eyes glared at me and I thought for sure he was going to kill me on the spot. Take out his gun and put a bullet in my head. No one would know. I would die here, in this small room, never knowing if my parents were okay. He sighed, deep and annoyed, interrupting my frantic thoughts, “Follow me.”

I did just that, tears still seeping down my face as he took me to the women’s restroom. He stood outside the door, patiently waiting for me, until I finally reemerged. I was still crying, unable to hold back the waterworks, even once he had returned me to the lobby, “It’s fine. Just don’t do again, you hear?” He scolded, “I’ll get your brother.”

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I wasn’t sure how long it had been since Eden had left me alone. It felt like an eternity. I eventually ran out of tears to shed. I pulled my knees up to my chest, burying my face in my thighs. My arms wrapped as tightly around myself as possible, I waited for my teal ‘brother’ to return.

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I felt his calming presence before I heard him. It was an aura of peace and tranquility that usually surrounded him, “Come on, Snow. Let’s go.” I peeked over the ridges of my kneecaps, half expecting him to be angry despite the tone of his voice. He wasn’t. His hand was held out for me to take, lips pulled into a half smile. I took his hand wordlessly and we left without as much as a goodbye.

We were a good distance away from the station before I tugged my hand free of his grip, digging into my pockets. Eden watched me carefully, eyebrows raising as I pulled out the letter – but more importantly – my phone. I dialed my mother’s number, anxiously waiting for her to answer. All I got was her answering machine. I couldn’t let myself dwell on the implications. I mowed forward, onto the next question plaguing my conscious, “Do you know what this symbol is?” I asked before handing it over to Eden.

His teal eyes scanned the creased page – inspecting every speck and mark on the page. The more he read the further his lips pulled downwards. His eyebrows furrowed, lines appearing as his forehead, “Where did you get this?”

Eden had to have been informed about my little escapade. My face flushed and my eyes diverted to the side, “I took it from the office I was found in.” I mumbled.

He folded it up with precision, slipping it into his own back pocket, “That was careless, Princess. I told you stay put.” He lectured, taking off.

I jogged to catch up, knowing that he was right. Everyone was trying so hard to protect me. What did I do to repay them? Put myself in danger time after time after time, “I’m sorry,” I called after him, “I just felt so… useless.”

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His brisk pace did not falter but I caught him glimpse at me over his shoulder, “That symbol. It is the Resistance’s.”

“Oh… Why would the Resistance be writing to the police?”

“It would seem the police are now working for the Resistance, princess. Maybe the whole government, who knows.”

“Oh.” I didn’t know what else to say. If the whole government of Berry was on their side was this a battle we could win? Would it be better for everyone if I just went back into hiding or ceased to exist? Perhaps it was just not time for color-blind love and the resulting offspring.

“They’re bound to notice you stole from that office. They will be on the lookout for you. We need to get inside and stay away from police.” He ran a hand through his hair, sounding exasperated as he spoke.

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Just another mistake to add to my never ending list, “I’m sorry.” Apologizing wouldn’t fix the situation, I knew that. There was just nothing else I could do or say to make the situation better. I could, however, keep it from getting any worse. I stuck close to Eden’s side, trying my best to seem calm together even though each step brought me closer to falling apart.

Generation 2

Chapter Fourteen: Thinnest of Maps

I wasn’t sure what time it was the next time I woke up. The sun was still up – the rays of light piercing through the dirt caked window over my head – but it could have been eight in the morning or four in the evening for all I knew.  A second or two of clearing sleep from my eyes brought my unfamiliar surroundings to my attention. Instantly, the reality of the previous night crashed around me and I scrambled out of the bed.

Noir. Eden. Shiloh. Where were they? Were they okay? My stomach dropped as I recalled Cephei telling me about the escalation of violence I had brought about. Another mistake; more deaths. Once again, I was the one at fault. I tried my best to push the haunting thoughts of my brother aside as I stumbled over to a nearby table. I was surprised to see my clothes in pristine condition – washed and folded. Deposited on top of them was my cell phone; the object I had been looking for. I turned it on, tapping my foot impatiently as it flickered to life. I held my breath as the boot-up phase finished and the screen displayed ten missed texts and calls.

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I was immediately disappointed when I realized they were all from my mother. It had been a few days since I spoke to anyone in my family – they were probably just worried. I prayed that Pandora was still telling them that I was staying with Ocean as I brought up Noir’s name in my contacts. I hit send, biting my lip just a tiny bit harder every time it rang.

“Hello,” My heart nearly stopped beating as that two syllable word reached my ear, “you’ve reached –“ My hand slipped away from my face, absent mindedly hitting the end call button as my mind went blank. My eyes slowly trailed over to the only door in the room, feet shuffling towards the exit. I tried twisting the knob both ways but it only budged an inch before I was met with resistance. I crossed my arm, staring at the knob in confusion.

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Cephei had locked me in my room.

I fell backwards, back onto the bed I had just managed to crawl out of. What did I do now? I didn’t have Eden’s number nor Shiloh’s.  There wasn’t much that I could do at the moment. I needed to wait for Cephei to get back from the station; hope that she had everyone safe and sound with her. I curled up, hugging the sole pillow close to my body as I buried my face into the top of it.

Luckily, it wasn’t too long before the door creaked open. Cephei peered in, looking tired but in overall better condition. It was amazing what clean clothes and shower could do.

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“Are you awake?”

I nodded, sitting up slowly. I rubbed the dry tears away, attempting to hide the fact that I had been crying pitifully for quite some time.

“I have some good news.”

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I began signing, mostly out of habit, but Cephei’s face scrunched up in confusion and I remembered that last night I had spoken to her, “Sorry,” I mumbled, my voice tickling my throat as it rose out of my mouth, “Um, did you find them?”

She pursed her lips, glancing behind her before her attention rested on me again, “I found… something. I’m not sure if they are who they say they-“

It didn’t even matter that they could be strangers, I was out of the bed and onto my feet before she had even registered I had moved. Cephei did not try to block my path. Instead, she moved to the side and allowed me to run out into the living room. I felt light, almost giddy, as teal and pink came into view. I did slow down, confusion contorting my features, when I realized that they were blindfolded.

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Cephei must have noticed my reaction, “I couldn’t risk them being spies for the Resistance. If these are your friends than you can remove their blind folds.”

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I closed the gap between myself and Eden, reaching up with a smile as I pulled the fabric gently over his head, “Princess,” He breathed, “I’m glad you are safe.” I nodded, tears stinging my eyes as I pulled him into a hug. He returned it – albeit with one arm, “Please, do not do that to me again.”

I drew away, holding his blue gaze until he adverted his eyes to Shiloh – who had already proceeded to take off her own blindfold and was making gagging noises at us. I rolled my eyes but took a few steps back to put space between myself and Eden. ‘Where’s Noir?’ I signed. I saw the frustration well up in Shiloh, I still didn’t know why my signing annoyed her so, but Eden answered me before she began her badgering, “He did not return last night. We went down to the station to look for him – and you – but he wasn’t there. Shiloh overheard Cephei inquiring about Noir and insisted that we be brought here in order to speak to –“

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Shiloh rushed to my side, interrupting Eden with nudge so she could stand in front of me. He merely raised his eyebrow at the pink girl, moving towards the couch silently. Shiloh’s hands were on her hips and her eyes were ablaze as she scowled down at me, “Where is Noir?” She demanded. I shrugged in response, biting the side of my cheek, “You don’t know? How can you not know! You were with him when it happened!”

I met her anger with another shrug. Moving to walk around her, I sought to find a piece of paper and pen so I could explain to Shiloh what had happened. For some reason, speaking to her just didn’t feel right. Her hand whipped out, long nails digging into my shoulder as she jerked me around to face her, “Look here ‘princess’,” She was seething, free hand shaking. I clenched my eyes shut; certain she was going to hit me, “This is your fault. Noir only went into that trap to save your scrawny hide. You need to fix this you useless little-“

“Stop it!” Cephei eyebrows were furrowed as she approached us, “You do not get to come into my house and treat my guest in such a manner, young lady. I only brought you here because you told me you were a friend of Estellise’s. If you followed me from the station because of some boy I am going to have to ask you to leave.” Cephei seized Shiloh’s hand from my shoulder.

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Shiloh snatched her hand back, glowering at Cephei, “I am a friend of Estellise’s.”

“Could have fooled me.” I heard Eden mutter behind me. There was a moment of silence – Cephei and Shiloh glaring at each other – until Eden spoke up again, “You’ll get further if you work with Estelle instead of against her, Shiloh.”

Pink eyes narrowed, arms crossed over her chest, “Fine,” Shiloh conceded, “We’ll work together.”

*

According to Shiloh there were only a few places that Noir could have ended up.

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The police were being tight lipped about who they had been arrested during the protest. Cephei hadn’t been able to determine if he was being held there or not and neither had Shiloh. The second was in a ditch somewhere – probably hurt, unconscious or dead. Then there was always the chance that he had escaped and was lying low with some of his friends from the city.

Shiloh volunteered to drive around the blocks surrounding last night’s protest. She also said she would try to get into contact with a few Berries she hadn’t spoken too in years but were good friends of Noir’s. Cephei was a member of the Uprising here in Bubbleport and thought it would be a good idea to head to the hideout in order to collect information and resources. She tried to convince me to join her but I was determined to head over to the nearest station myself. They had to release information about their captives eventually. Bail had to be posted and everyone knew that Berries had one phone call. Eventually they had to follow the normal rules and regulations.

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Eden offered to accompany me even though he, like Cephei, felt it was a waste of time. Not only a waste of time but perilous and reckless.  I had to wear my disguise, obviously, but there was another condition as well. I had to dye my hair. There were no ands, ifs or buts about it. It was the only way Cephei would even entertain the thought of letting me do such a treacherous feat.

As soon as I agreed to the conditions Cephei ran out to the nearest store to buy a container of bleach. It took hours to strip my strains of the bright yellow that usually tinted them. The chemical fumes permeated the air, burning my eyes and nose and filling my lungs. The best part of the whole experience was when Cephei was washing my hair out at the end. Her long fingers played with my long mane, nails scratching my scalp gently. I had almost fallen asleep on the toilet when I heard a snip and distinctively felt weight fall from my right side. My eyes flew open, blinking away the haze that had formed in my moment of reprieve.

“What was that?”

“I’m just cutting your hair.” She sounded so calm that I almost felt as if nothing was wrong. Then there was another snip and I realized the locks that used to fall to my lower back now rested below my shoulders.

“What? Why!” I exclaimed, grabbing up the rest of my hair and throwing it over my shoulder. As if that would protect it; like it would regenerate the length that had already been slaughtered.

“No one will recognize you like this, Estellise. Trust me.”

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I gritted my teeth but released my hair, “You could have asked me first.” I pouted, feeling much like a child as she quickly evened out both sides with a few more snips.

“I’m sorry. I just knew you would put up a fight.”

She was right – I would have argued until I was blue in the face to keep my hair. That didn’t quell the anger coursing through my veins nor did it stop the tears from flowing when I stood up and looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, “I don’t even look like me.”

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“Exactly,” was all Cephei had to say to me before she retreated out into the living room.

I knew we didn’t have much time – Noir could be in danger or dying or worse – but I sat there mourning my hair until Eden came to retrieve me. I saw his reflection enter the bathroom. Watched as he paused, staring at the yellow strains that had been scattered on the title floor, before he finally flashed me a small smile.

“You look good.” He whispered.

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I wiped the tears away, sniffling until he twirled me around to face him. He frowned, eyes searching mine, before he finally bent down and gave my forehead a feather light kiss. Face blazing, I buried my face into his strong chest.

We stayed like that until my sniveling had ceased.

“Okay, you can go now.” I mumbled, untangling myself from his arms.

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Eden’s face contorted into one of utter disbelief before melting into wonder, “I-I-what?” He stuttered ungracefully. A flustered Eden was a sight to behold. Laughter bubbled past my lips and I nodded, trying to hide my smile behind fingertips, “Oh. I. Okay,” he paused, letting the words sink in slowly.

“Go on. I have to change,” I teased, ushering him out the door with a wave of my hands.

“Right.” He mumbled, shuffling towards the door slowly. I giggled, nudging him playfully though the doorway. He turned, still looking utterly confused, as I waved to him while shutting the door.